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Small decrease in food basket cost offers limited relief for South African households

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By Lee-Yandra Paulsen

The latest household affordability index report reveals a minor decrease in the total cost of the average household food basket for February. Mervyn Abrahams, Programme Coordinator at Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD), discussed these findings on VOC Breakfast.

Abrahams highlighted the fluctuating trend in food prices, noting slight decreases nationwide from October to December, followed by a 1.7% spike in January, and now a nearly 1% decline in February. He emphasized the significance of food prices in driving overall inflation, suggesting that reducing them could positively impact the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

“While the decreases in food prices are widespread across major cities and affect 19 out of 40 food items. The national minimum wage of about R4 953 falls short of covering the entire food basket of R5210. With transport and electricity consuming around 60% of this wage, the workers are left with a mere R1600. Considering an average household of four, this allocation dwindles to R420 per person, far below the government’s food poverty line of R760.”

Despite the reduction in food prices, Abrahams stressed that the overall cost of the food basket remains unaffordable for many South Africans. He argued that until this cost decreases by approximately R1000, the impact on working-class households will remain minimal.

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